The Poincare conjecture was a seemingly unsolvable theorem that was first proposed in 1904. Dealing with a branch of spatial mathematics called topology, the theorem sought to prove that any shape without a hole can be formed into a sphere. Sounds simple enough, right? Tell that to the math world, which, for over a century, struggled to prove the elusive conjecture even possible, inadvertently turning it into one of the community’s Holy Grails.
But Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman published two proofs of the theorem back in 2002 and 2003, and according to The Utopianist, it wasn’t until last year that a team of advanced mathematicians at the Clay Mathematical Institute (CMI) finally proved his results valid.
His reward? One million dollars and the Fields Medal, or the math world’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. But the private Perelman shrugged off the invite to accept the cash, saying that the knowledge he gained from proving the conjecture was more valuable than any monetary gain.
“Emptiness is everywhere and it can be calculated, which gives us a great opportunity. I know how to control the universe. So tell me, why should I run for a million?” he told Komsomolskaya Pravda, a daily Russian newspaper.
So how did he solve the problem? Simple: by channeling Jesus.
In his words:
“We were trying to solve the tasks which required abstract thinking. The distraction from mathematical logic was exactly the point of the daily training. One had to imagine a piece of the world in order to find the correct solution. Do you remember the Biblical story about Jesus Christ walking on water? I had to calculate the speed with which he had to move on the water surface not to fall through.”
And they say science and religion can’t work together.
Though he’s avoided talking to most journalists (they want to know “whether he cuts his hair and nails”) he’s agreed to be part of a documentary about the cooperation and struggles of three of the world’s major mathematical schools.
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